1. Why was this reform needed anyway?
The reform of the bar is an important component of the judicial reform, which is being implemented with the end purpose of transforming Ukraine into a modern European state. It means that everything the state does has to be subordinate to the principle of protecting human dignity and civil rights and freedoms. In a country based on the rule of law, an attorney should be a guide to law and protect us from arbitrariness and injustice. The reform of the bar is intended to create the conditions that will make this possible.
2. Who has voiced support for the reform of the bar?
Positive opinions of the bill # 9055 were provided by the Council of Europe, the Ukrainian Attorneys Association, the Ukrainian Bar Association, the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, the Reanimation Package of Reforms (an NGO), the Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives, Transparency International, Crimea SOS. Additionally, attorneys working at more than 20 separate law firms have voiced their support for the reform, citing the urgency of bringing the law “On the Bar” in line with the new role afforded to duly admitted attorneys by the recent amendments to the Constitution and ensuring guarantees necessary for attorneys to exercise their duties.
3. What changes will the new law bring?
According to the opinion of the experts of the Council of Europe, the bill “On the Bar and the Practice of Law” (# 9055) “represents a step forward as compared to the Law of Ukraine On the Bar and Practice of Law in force since 2012” and is generally “in compliance with the CoE standards for the regulation and protection of the legal profession” and “in some areas provide[s] even a higher level of protection for lawyers”. Thus, if it is passed by the Parliament, the legislative framework for the practice of law will see a substantial upgrade:
- attorneys’ professional rights and guarantees will be expanded;
- corruption risks in regulating access to the profession will be eliminated;
- liability for misconduct will become more balanced;
- the bar’s self-governance will be decentralized and put on a democratic basis;
- funding of the bar’s self-governance bodies will become transparent.
More details about changes introduced by the bill can be found in the table below:
4. Who is opposing the new law and why?
Bill # 9055 has met with strong opposition from the old bar establishment that has for years had control over the bar’s self-governance bodies. Specifically, the Ukrainian National Bar Association opposes the passing of the bill, for understandable reasons: the bill would strip this organization of many illegitimate tools of influence over the legal community. At the same time, these critics often gloss over the provisions of the bill that would improve attorneys’ ability to do their work.
5. By way of a reminder, what is the role of an attorney in the system of justice?
An attorney defends the interests of their client/principal in court and is a necessary element in the justice “triangle” that is indispensable for the realization of the “adversarial system” principle. This principle means that prosecution and defense have equal rights and possibilities in a legal proceeding.